While the Buddha’s image is worshipped as sacred by many around the world, it’s also casually co-opted by non-adherents as #exotic and #woke decor.
And has happened before with Line stickers, tattoos and more, offended Thais have now declared war on an Instagram filter. Their ire at Japanese augmented reality creator Bma_Japan, who earlier this month launched a series of Snapchat-like Buddha filters, has been met with overwhelming negativity online.
“Having fun while trampling on other people’s hearts, you call that fun?!” Instagram user Sucheewa recently commented on the creator’s post.
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The fight gained even more traction when Knowing Buddha, an organization which promotes the proper care of Buddha images and is behind those massive billboards near the airport, denounced the filters last week.
“A lot of people, including many Thais, mostly teenagers and students have mockingly posted photos of themselves with the Buddha head. This is extremely inappropriate!” the organization wrote online.
“This reflects the decline in consciousness, both of the creator, himself, and the Thai people who decided to use it without taking into account the danger and consequences that could come upon themselves and the religion.”
More than just spiritual corrosion, the organization seemed to be eluding to consequences under Section 206 of the criminal code, which declares it illegal to insult or defame a religion; a crime punishable by up to seven years in jail and a fine of THB14,000 (US$443).
Though there’s no apparent precedent in Thailand, Myanmar four years ago sentenced a Kiwi bar manager in Yangon to two and a half years in prison for just putting headphones on the Buddha in a promotional flyer posted online.
Knowing Buddha said it had contacted Bma_Japan and requested that he pull this the filters.
Among all the negativity, some less strident people have been asking for everyone to relax and have a sense of humor.
“I think it’s quite funny,” Instagram user Job_321 wrote.
On Facebook, user Prach Lam-buddha suggested that Knowing Buddha should heed the Buddha’s teaching and “let it go.”
Reached for comment, Bma_Japan said he was not taking the filters down.
“I received many messages not wanting it to be deleted from many Thai people,” he wrote.
He noted that Japanese don’t share the same sensitivities and commonly use the image in everything from art to entertainment.
“I made a Buddha filter for Japanese people,” he wrote. “In Japan, there are famous cartoons in which Buddha and Christ appear. This manga will be converted into a film and will soon be made into a drama on Japanese national broadcasting.”
Thailand had a similar case of virtual effrontery back in 2014, when Line Thailand was forced to remove three sets of stickers featuring the divine Buddha making various funny gestures after the company received a complaint from the Young Buddhists Association of Thailand.
What do you think Cocofriends? Offensive or Funny?